Irony! Brian Williams, Guest Blame Eroding Trust of Establishment Media...on Conservatives!

In another hilarious case of irony, The 11th Hour host and serial liar Brian Williams teed up guest Charlie Sykes on Tuesday to lambaste conservative media (like the one you’re reading) for being why no one trusts mainstream media in the age of Trump and alternative facts. 

Sykes and Williams offered no arguments or examples of how the establishment media have torpedoed their own credibility with false stories and a decidedly liberal slant. Instead, it was an exclusive attack on conservatives for supposedly enabling President Trump to offer misstatements without consequences.

Wiliams welcomed Sykes after his “provocative” Sunday column in The New York Times, which sent liberals swooning. Williams read the following excerpt from the piece entitled “Why nobody cares the President is lying”:

The cumulative effects of attacks [on the mainstream media] was to delegitimize those outlets and essentially destroy much of the right’s immunity to false information. We thought we were creating a savvier, more skeptical audience. Instead, we opened the door for President Trump, who found an audience that could be easily misled.

The former NBC Nightly News anchor ruled that “we urge everyone to read this” and remarked how Sykes was condemning his own profession of conservative media (which he was a part of for years in Wisconsin).

As if he were taking cues from CNN’s Brian Stelter, Sykes emphasized that “conservative media, the responsible, rational, fact-based conservative media does need to push back a little bit about what's happened.”

Only briefly suggesting that “a lot of the criticism of the mainstream media was legitimate,” Sykes tossed aside this significant reality for one that he’s chosen to now become a part of:

[B]ut what we did and I think that you've talked about this, is to delegitimize all of those sources of information. And so we do have these alternative reality silos and you can live within those alternative reality silos and I think this is what the Trump administration is counting on. Why does he lie? Because he can. 

Sykes cited “the Breitbarts of the world, the Drudges of the world, the Rush Limbaugh of the world” because each would give Trump “air cover” whenever he’s criticized for controversial statements or lies. 

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Overall, the former conservative host stated that his “concern is not just that's [Trump’s] lying” but “[i]t's an attack on the concept of the truth itself — of credibility and my main concern is that you'll have millions of voters at some point who will basically say, ‘what is truth?’”

Failing to realize that he’s joined an echo-chamber in which Manhattan elites sit around reading The New York Times and The New Yorker while watching The Daily Show, Sykes knocked anyone supporting Trump as “pick[ing] the facts that confirm our bias, that support our guy and ignore the facts that don't support our guy.”

“[A]nd then we're in a very, very, you know, dangerous place for democracy,” he surmised.

Once again, the irony can’t be lost on how this is occurring on a Brian Williams-hosted program. The man who lied about seeing bodies floating during Hurricane Katrina and being shot down during the Iraq War then fretted:

Just this week, there are now folks who believe we pick and choose terrorist attacks to report on. There are now folks who believe that the murder rate is at a 47-year high. It is not, but the President said it was today. It's not. 

Continuing to parody the likes of Stelter, Sykes compared the current United States to that of countries under the rule of authoritarism:

Now, this is something that, in authoritarian regimes, people are used to, which is that the leader will define what is the truth. And all criticism is delegitimized. By the way, criticism from federal judges, criticism from the media, criticism from the intelligence agencies, that all of those sources of independent information or checks are basically — well and they are — and they are discredited. 

“So what is the source of truth? Well it, comes from the leader. This, again, familiar to authoritarian regimes, very alien to a democratic society,” he concluded.

The media has done plenty to undermine their cause. Aside from their boy who cried wolf fears about past Republican candidates, their false stories, slanted analyses, and failed predictions stand out. 

For a recent example, the media should be able to get basic facts right before lecturing readers about falling for fake news. Twice in the last week, MSNBC and NBC personalities falsely told audiences that not a single Republican Senator met with Merrick Garland when 16 of them did. 

Whether it’s ABC deceptively editing Ari Fleischer, 20/20 skewering Food Lion, Dateline: NBC rigging a pick-up truck with explosives, or spreading hysteria that the Russians hacked a Vermont power grid, the voluminous examples span over decades. 

As the Federalist’s Daniel Payne wrote, the news media have published at least 16 different fake or false stories in the scant number of days since Trump was inaugurated on January 20. 

If Sykes wants to blame conservatives for simply pointing out the faults of the mainstream media, perhaps he should instead emphasize that legacy media should think twice before concocting untrue narratives or going forward with stories without sufficient fact-checking.

Here are the relevant portions of the transcript from MSNBC’s The 11th Hour with Brian Williams on February 7:

MSNBC’s The 11th Hour with Brian Williams
February 7, 2017
11:48 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Mr. Sykes is going to stay with us after the break. His provocative column from The New York Times about something this President does and why he's allowed to do it when The 11th Hour continues. 

(....)

11:52 p.m. Eastern

WILLIAMS: We're back and as you may have heard me say, we've kept our friend Charlie Sykes for extra credit for me to ask him about a piece he just wrote for The New York Times. Provocative title, provocative piece. It’s called “Why nobody cares the President is lying.” In it, Charlie writes in part: “The cumulative effects of attacks [on the mainstream media] was to delegitimize those outlets and essentially destroy much of the right’s immunity to false information. We thought we were creating a savvier, more skeptical audience. Instead, we opened the door for President Trump, who found an audience that could be easily misled.” Charlie, we urge everyone to read this, but you’re also calling artillery in on your own position.

CHARLIE SYKES: Right. I think the key thing is that the conservative media, the responsible, rational, fact-based conservative media does need to push back a little bit about what's happened. I mean, what we did and a lot of the criticism of the mainstream media was legitimate, but what we did and I think that you've talked about this, is to delegitimize all of those sources of information. And so we do have these alternative reality silos and you can live within those alternative reality silos and I think this is what the Trump administration is counting on. Why does he lie? Because he can. Because anyone who corrects him, he'll say that's the opposition, that’s partisan. And then he'll have the Breitbarts of the world, the Drudges of the world, the Rush Limbaugh of the world provide him with air cover. My concern is not just that's he's lying. It's an attack on the concept of the truth itself — of credibility and my main concern is that you'll have millions of voters at some point who will basically say, “what is truth?” And they’ll kinda throw up their hands. Maybe truth is unknowable?

WILLIAMS: Right.

SYKES: And so let's just pick the facts that confirm our bias, that support our guy and ignore the facts that don't support our guy and then we're in a very, very, you know, dangerous place for democracy. 

WILLIAMS: Just this week, there are now folks who believe we pick and choose terrorist attacks to report on. There are now folks who believe that the murder rate is at a 47-year high. It is not, but the President said it was today.  It's not. 

SYKES: Now, this is something that, in authoritarian regimes, people are used to, which is that the leader will define what is the truth. And all criticism is delegitimized. By the way, criticism from federal judges, criticism from the media, criticism from the intelligence agencies, that all of those sources of independent information or checks are basically —

WILLIAMS: Specious.

SYKES: Well and they are — and they are discredited. So what is the source of truth? Well it, comes from the leader. This, again, familiar to authoritarian regimes, very alien to a democratic society. 

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center